Advice offered on keeping seniors safe in extreme heat
Waves cause a rise in heat-related illnesses and fatalities among older adults, and this summer in Delaware has been no exception. Emergency rooms throughout the state have seen a rise in preventable admissions. If a family member, friend or neighbor is a senior or disabled adult living alone, please call or visit quickly when the temperatures soar.
As we age, our body’s ability to cool down slows. Many older adults may not even feel uncomfortably warm as temperatures rise to dangerous levels.
They’re also less likely to drink enough liquids, as they don’t feel the thirst that normally occurs naturally when overheating begins. Combine these heat-related causes with medications commonly prescribed for seniors that act as diuretics and dehydration can lead to serious conditions very rapidly.
Victims of dehydration do not have enough fluid (water) in their bodies to get nutrition and oxygen to the tissues of their bodies. Their blood pressure drops. Their kidneys and other organ functions slow or shut down, and a victim may need intravenous fluids quickly. Call 911 for a dehydrated victim suffering from confusion, dizziness or weakness.
Those caring for older adults should always be aware of the temperature and encourage drinking fluids, such as water and sports drinks with electrolytes, in hot weather. Everyone should think about their neighbors and how they can help. Here are some basic tips for preventing heat related illnesses:
• First and foremost, please check in with friends and family, or even that neighbor on your street that you barely know. Ring her doorbell early, before the temperature soars, and see that she has a working air conditioner, or is she perhaps has a need for groceries that she can’t go buy so easily during the heat of the day.
• Move the individual to an air-conditioned room and make sure that the thermostat is set cool enough. Prior to leaving for an extended period of time, make sure the unit is in good, reliable working order. Fans are not enough, as all they do is re-circulate hot air.
• If there is no air conditioning available, find daytime activities in well-cooled places, such as a shopping mall, grocery store, movie theater, even a bowling alley.
• Seniors should never walk alone, even for short distances, during severe temperatures.
• Always drink plenty of water or other clear liquid nutritional supplements.
• Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these further dehydrate the body.
• Take frequent cool showers, baths or sponge baths.
• Always wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, preferably made of cotton.
• Wear a sun hat with a brim.
Tip: If your urine is light in color, you are properly hydrated. If it is a darker yellow, more hydration is required.
Those who are concerned about a loved one this summer can consider home care by Visiting Angels of Sussex DE. From a few hours a day to 24/7 care, we aim to help seniors and disabled adults remain independent in their own homes. Visiting Angels can help with meal preparation, light housekeeping, hygiene assistance, laundry, shopping, errands and appointments and keeping loved ones safe and cool this season. For more information, call (302) 329-9475.